June 26, 2022

Herald of Fashion

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At the bottom of the Mediterranean, “BathyBot” discovers the mysteries of the “dark sea”.

Released Friday, January 14, 2022 at 8:32 p.m.

The crane slowly lowers a small white and yellow “rover” mounted on caterpillars to the bottom of a test bed at the Eframer Center in La Chain-sur-Mer (Var).

On their screens, engineers and scientists check the functionality of the boat’s cameras, which will soon unravel the mysteries of the abyss, the world’s first mobile underwater vehicle permanently installed at a depth of 2,500 meters.

“We know less about the deep ocean than the moon,” explains Christian Tamburini of CNRS, a researcher at the Mediterranean Laboratory. “We don’t know what’s going on there, or the creatures that live there.”

Needless to say, it was anti-environmental. The average depth of the oceans, which cover 70% of the earth’s surface, is 3,800 meters. Darkness envelops from 180 meters. And 1,000 meters, it’s total darkness, the “dark sea”.

As a result, most scientific research is done in layers close to the surface where life has accumulated.

But at a time of climate crisis, it is important to understand the changes that warming is causing to the oceans and how it affects these natural carbon sinks, which separate nearly a third of the CO2 released by humans.

Especially thanks to BathyBot, “we can explore what’s produced on the surface and what’s going on below,” “says Christian Tamburini.

While scientists believe that the “sixth mass extinction” has begun, understanding the abyss’s biodiversity is another primary goal.

– Look in the dark –

CNRS, as part of a European project, and in partnership with public company Ifremer, will deploy the world’s deepest permanent surveillance site 40 kilometers off the coast of Toulon. There is another Canadian “only” less than 800 meters.

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The French program exploited the “underwater telescope” area to hunt for cosmic particles. Already served by a permanent cable for electricity and data, to which they are pasted.

The new laboratory will be used from January 31 to February 14 with the Nautile submarine by the French Navy’s flagship Pourquoi Pas.

So he will be a miniature, small “rover” equipped with a Twitter account called bathybot to popularize his inventions. One meter long is twenty-one wide and 90 centimeters high.

It has only a distant resemblance to its space exploration relatives: instead of solar panels it is powered by cable, a “leash” also collects its data, but limits its range to 50 meters. , It travels very slowly.

In the hope that one day he will be able to gain autonomy, and then increase the distance. With no GPS less than 2,500 meters, with the condition that you solve your orientation difficulties! An opportunity to sow stocks with QR codes that tell where he is.

It will be equipped with simultaneously reduced standard equipment: a radiometer (radioactivity), a bio-camera to capture specific bioluminescence events, a seismograph map and BathyReef, a “bio-inspired” artificial reef.

This concrete structure, just 4 meters long and 2.5 meters wide, slowly rises to a height of 1.5 meters. This will give BathyBot a point to climb to expand its field of vision.

Its semi-open system, with its numerous divisions, allows lifestyles to attach themselves to it and study the reactions of others to this barrier.

– Power Strip –

Another important part of the device is the “science meeting box”. A (large) intelligent power strip that supplies power, connects at high speeds and monitors all equipment at the station.

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“We can connect equipment to the bottom of the water, we can remove it, we can control everything from the ground,” explains John Oberpecke, head of the Undersea Systems division for the Ifremar Navy.

BathyBot will be reconnected every two years, after which new tools will be available, for example to allow “micro-coring” in the sedimentary soil it forms.

Expected service life is at least five to ten years. Something to put a little light on the “dark ocean”.